Gifted American Photographer Documents Grandeur, Plight of Mali’s Fabled Timbuktu

Timbuktu is a city that has long gripped the Western imagination. It sits on the Niger River, that clearly marked dividing line between the sandy deserts of North Africa and the green, moist, fertile lands of tropical and sub-tropical Africa, the iconic jungles we associate with Congo and a blazing equatorial sun.

Timbuktu is also rooted deeply in the English language. Even young children speak of Timbuktu in the sense of “as far away from where I am now as it is possible to get.” And some of its charm, too, derives simply from the euphony of the word: “Timbuktu” slips off the tongue. We also speak definitively of “Sub-Saharan Africa” as though that were itself a name. Is that not an odd thing to do? Would we ever call the United States and Mexico “Sub-Canadian America”?

Timbuktu has an importance belied by its geographic isolation because it has served now for millennia as the doorway between the deserts and the jungles of Africa. It is the passage that one had to walk through, when camels and canoes were the principal vehicles of African travel, to get from North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa — and back again. It maintained that role well into the 20th century, and it maintains it still today, at least symbolically.

Because of its critical position as the gateway to the south, Arab traders and evangelists from the seventh and eighth centuries onward made Timbuktu a way station of very special significance. Its two principal mosques are magnificent works of architecture, and Timbuktu’s Islamic libraries have been compared in stature to those of Baghdad and Cairo.

Though it has been no stranger to conflict over the centuries, Timbuktu today is in acute, grave danger, a sort of danger it has not faced before. Timbuktu may actually risk being destroyed because Islamic militias are battling over the surrounding territory and the very city itself.

These militias, with fanatical zeal, have already damaged ancient tombs which commemorate the final resting place of Sufi saints, now deemed to be “idolatrous” by Ansar Dine, an extremist group. A dozen sacred tombs have already been vandalized.

Worse, Timbuktu’s ancient libraries, housing priceless collections of ancient Islamic texts that the UNESCO World Heritage Center estimates may number 300,000, (including books on early Islamic studies of mathematics and science — the treasure trove is not limited to religious tracts), are now at risk of being burned or destroyed.

These priceless texts cannot be replaced. Some of them exist solely as one-time, unique calligraphy on scrolls. Destroy the single copy in Timbuktu and there are no sister copies in Cairo or Baghdad to preserve its intellectual content. Though some manuscripts have been moved to safer repositories, too many remain in Timbuktu, where imams have preserved them for centuries. But the imams have never faced the threat they face today.

And yet these books and scrolls could be saved both in actuality and as digital copies — if there was a will and a way expressed by the greater international community that made this a focus of global concern. Part of the problem is that the calamity facing Timbuktu is not widely known in Europe and America.

And now comes a brilliant young American photographer and writer, Alexandra Huddleston, who has given a substantial portion of the last eight years of her life documenting, in magnificent images and moving words, the dire threat that faces Timbuktu, both its living people and its living treasures. She has put all her work into a book, a volume that will hold you prisoner.

Her 96-page text is titled “333 Saints: a Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu” and it tells the story of a city under siege — there is no less blunt way to put it — by Islamic fanatics who think nothing of killing people and less of killing texts. Supported in part by her Fulbright, Alexandra Huddleston tells in photographs and words the story of Timbuktu’s long lineage of Islamic scholarship, and of how that scholarship is now imperilled as never before.

In a short piece she wrote for the development group Kickstarter, Huddleston says that her book “tells a story of discovery, a rich and beautiful African intellectual culture that remains largely unknown in the West. It is a book about men and women who love books — scholars of all ages who seek knowledge and wisdom through learning. It is about a city that has built its identity around a culture of scholarship.”

Alexandra Huddleston is a native of Africa, the daughter of Foreign Service parents then stationed in Sierra Leone. Though she spent time growing up in Washington, D.C., she has traveled extensively all over the world and she fell in love with Mali, that mysterious home to so many elegant peoples that is so deeply hidden in the southern Sahara, a nation that gently touches, too, in its southern precincts, Africa’s moist, green lushness.

Alexandra was introduced to Mali by her mother Vicki Huddleston, who had two tours of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Mali, first as a staffer in the political and economic section early in her career and later as ambassador. Vicki Huddleston began her overseas journeys as a young Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, so Alexandra’s affection for remote and difficult places appears to be deep in her DNA.

Alexandra Huddleston’s work “333 Saints: a Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu” must be approached by American and European readers with a sense of urgency, for there is a real risk of cultural extinction here, the permanent loss of treasures that help inform us of who we are. There are scientific treasures here, too, dating from that period when Islamic science eclipsed the backward European scholarship of the Middle Ages.

Many in this country were aghast when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan a dozen years ago, using precisely the same “logic” (that they are idolatrous) now being directed against Timbuktu’s Sufi saints and Islamic libraries.

But what is happening in Timbuktu is arguably much worse, because manuscripts encode vastly more human thought, history, emotion, and knowledge than stone statues are capable of doing. Where is the sense of outrage that is now needed?

Anyone who loves Africa will cherish this book. And by focussing attention on the dire predicament in Timbuktu, perhaps a solution can be found that will preserve this human heritage for those who come later, who may treat these treasures more wisely.

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Worth Every Penny Book Review

As a business owner of a home-based photography studio, I find that constant education is vital to the continued growth of my business. There are a variety of forms of education for photographers and other business owners: conferences, classes, local meetings, or books being a few. Books are often one of the cheaper forms of education and I find a lot of great insights from books like Worth Every Penny.

Worth Every Penny is a business book written by both Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck founder and chief of The Joy of Marketing. This book is targeted toward small business owners running boutique style businesses. While bigger businesses are focused on volume, boutique businesses are focused on experience and high-end, quality products. This book helps boutique business owners understand some of the keys necessary to running their boutique business.

Worth Every Penny gives great advice on how to build a strong brand to market to your ideal client base, which is crucial in a boutique business. It’s importance to convey luxury and a high-end experience to your current and feature client base. The book also discusses strategies for creating a strong marketing and advertising campaign to reflect this idea and what makes your business unique. It is always important to convey what makes your business different and more desirable than your competition.

A huge part of boutique businesses is building relationships. When you aren’t working with a high volume business, you have the time to invest in getting to know your clients. Worth Every Penny discusses ways to convey your appreciation to your customers and develop strong relationships with them, which can help grow your business.

And of course, with the extra time, value, and care dedicated to the customers of a boutique business, a higher price is often a necessity. Worth Every Penny discusses methods for pricing your products and adding additional value to your clients orders. After all, to be a viable business, you need to make a profit.

I personally found Sarah Petty & Erin Verbeck’s book, Worth Every Penny, to be incredibly beneficial and insightful in working on my own business. Determining my strengths and unique products, how to market them and provide my clients with the best care possible are incredibly important to me, and this book has helped me narrow down and hone these things. I would highly recommend this book to any boutique business – not just photography business owners!

Stephanie lives in Central IL, is married to her best friend, Ryan, and enjoys the company of her crazy pups, Kit & Lucy. She is the owner of Green Tree Media Photography and is passionate about photography.

Stephanie received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography and design from Millikin University. She worked for Jones & Thomas, an advertising agency in Decatur, IL for 3 years doing both design and photography before starting up her own business as a natural light and lifestyle photographer.

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Trick Photography and Special Effects – A Photographer’s Magic

If photography is your passion and you are troubled for not owning an expensive camera, you need not worry. Trick Photography and Special Effects’ is at your disposal! This eBook has everything that could be instrumental for a budding photographer as the name very well indicates. The book has everything from photographs by professionals, video tutorials and a long set of instructions.

A True Delight

The Trick Photography and Special Effects eBook is nothing short of taking professional classes from an accomplished photographer. It has captured almost all sorts of photography at the same timing revealing all the tricks that help capture the perfect photographs.

The picturesque shots contained in the book are enough to take your breath away. It seems even Photoshop could not accomplish the feat of making pictures look that attractive. The book is rage because of the variety of pictures it caters to like freezing motion, light painting techniques, motion blur, star trails, special effects, 3D images, long exposure effects and much more.

Sharboneau’s Expertise

Evan Sharboneau has indeed opened avenues for many passionate photographers out there who cannot afford to indulge in luxuries like expensive equipments and classes. Sharboneau has been at his creative best in the book and this reflects in the satisfaction and exhilaration of the readers after having read Trick Photography and Special Effects. In fact, the book is a revolutionary attempt as many pro-photographers do not like to reveal their photography secrets.

To begin with, the book does not require the reader to be a master in photography. Moreover, the numerous photos and videos are adept to make an amateur develop an interest in photography. You could sometimes be lost in these photographs and videos. The book has all the tricks for capturing infrared lights to taking surreal pictures. It just makes your imagination come true.

A Must Read

Trick Photography and Special Effects is a photographer’s magic journal and has an immense potential to contribute to his growth as an artist. It answers all the hows’ of photography. Along with tricks and techniques of photography, the book also mentions the best editing tricks.

I would highly recommend this book. The ideas are original and explained in the simplest manner possible. However, there is no substitute for hard work and practice. So, perseverance will take you much ahead. The eBook format of the book makes it all the more helpful and accessible. You can do full justice to the book by grabbing a copy because some things can be best understood by self-analysis.

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